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Lawyers: Ex-Concord Officer's Addiction Drove Him To Steal Drugs

MARTINEZ (CBS SF) -- A former Concord police officer accused of stealing prescription drugs from seniors allegedly committed the crimes to satisfy his addiction to painkillers after suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, attorneys said Tuesday.

Matthew Switzer, 38, waived a court appearance in Martinez Tuesday afternoon and is set to return to court for further arraignment on April 21.

The Clayton resident is charged with two counts of first-degree burglary, one count of second-degree burglary, one count of fraudulently obtaining prescription drugs and one count of elder abuse.

Switzer turned himself in on the charges Friday at the county jail in Martinez, where he is being held on $480,000 bail. He also resigned from his post as a Concord police K-9 officer the same day.

The arrest and charges were the result of an investigation initiated by Concord police Chief Guy Swanger, who said he got a tip in February from a resident who reported Switzer's alleged crimes.

Deputy District Attorney Barry Grove said Tuesday that the defendant used his status as a police officer to enter the homes of senior citizens in Concord and steal a prescription drug called Norco—a powerful pain medication that contains hydrocodone.

Grove said Switzer victimized at least two elderly residents of senior housing complexes and repeatedly stole their medication.

He also allegedly broke into an occupational therapy facility in Concord, where he stole more prescription drugs, the prosecutor said.

Grove said Switzer was also able to obtain drugs by using "numerous phony prescriptions."

According to Grove, the Contra Costa County Public Defender's Office could review criminal cases in which Switzer played an integral role.

A spokesperson from the public defender's office was not immediately available for comment.

Harry Stern, Switzer's attorney and a former Berkeley police officer, said his client has a "great reputation" in the police force, in the community and within his family and that his main focus is treating his prescription drug addiction.

Stern said the defendant became addicted to prescription painkillers after suffering an undisclosed injury and also suffered from PTSD.

"I'm very confident that given the right treatment, he's going to be able to battle back from this," the attorney said.

Stern said he has received "an outpouring of support" on behalf of his client since news of his arrest broke.

© Copyright 2014 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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